"Missing something?" My co-worker's sly smile betrayed his involvement with my missing laptop.
"Yes I am," I responded coyly, " are you?"
The smile disappeared from his face as his eyes darted across his desk looking for any sign of missing property.
"Oh, my bag," he let out a sigh of relief, "there's nothing in it, I don't care."
"Well then," I paused to take a sip of my water and turned back to face my desktop monitor, "I guess it's a good thing that that's the only thing missing."
Panic once again overcame him as he resumed scanning his workstation for any missing items.
"Ah crap, my keys!" he exclaimed.
I turned around triumphantly and smiled. Mind games are fun.
"So shall we trade?" I asked, knowing full well that he'd never find his keys. He stubbornly looked around for five minutes before finally giving in.
We did the exchange, laptop for bag and keys, hostage-style. I immediately secured the laptop lock that I had, for the very first time, forgotten to attach previously.
"Now that that's over with," I smiled, "how are you planning on listening to music today?"
He paused and looked at me quizically. Slowly, he turned to look at his desk.
"Oh come on, my headphones too?"
There's a natural sorting that happens in the first few years of employment whereby you sort yourself to a job where you offer the highest value. You may start as an engineer and end up as a manager, or you may start out as a designer and become an engineer. If you're more outgoing and social, you'll end up in a career where that helps you succeed; if you're ridiculously good-looking, you'll end up in a career where that serves you (do you really think it's a coincidence that most salespeople are incredibly good-looking?).
What then tends to happen is that you identify with your role more closely. You've spent years developing this role and it becomes part of your persona. You know your strengths and weaknesses and, most of the time, play only to your strengths. It's natural and expected. But it's also nice to try to break out of your self-imposed role to try new things. This happened to me today at work.
Something had slipped through the tracks and it was my job to implement it...fast. There was very little front end work required to implement the feature and my initial reaction was, "ah crap, I don't know how to do this." Literally, I was starting at zero knowledge of how this feature would have to be built. A slight sense of panic started to overcome me. Maybe I can just assign it to someone else.
But I took it as a challenge instead. Okay, I've spent years becoming a good front end engineer...I can do other things too, why can't I be good at this as well? So I took the position that I was going to do this, and not only would I do it, I'd write up what I was doing to help others who may have to do the same thing later. So I started talking to people who might be able to inform me. After talking to about four people, I finally found someone that could walk me through the process. She, in turn, sent me to speak to several other people to help along the way.
At the end of the day, I had implemented most of the feature. I had started at zero and ended up almost complete thanks to the help of a handful of others. I stepped outside my usual role to do something new, and I was happy with the result. Perhaps I'm not just a front end engineer anymore.